A month after earthquake, survivors face dire conditions

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Turkey earthquake survivors
Aziza Ahmed, 26, and her three childredn are cooking over an open fire and sleeping in freezing temperatures after their home in Gaziantep, Türkiye, collapsed on February 6th. Tineke D'haese/Oxfam

In Türkiye and Syria, people are struggling to meet their basic needs in freezing winter weather.

One month after earthquakes struck Türkiye (Turkey), killing 45,000 people and destroying hundreds of thousands of buildings and other infrastructure, Oxfam staff report aid and donations for survivors have sharply declined in spite of continuing urgent needs.

In Syria, where 6,000 people have died due to earthquakes, the United Nations reports more than 8.8 million people have been affected. Oxfam staff in the area around Aleppo report many displaced people are in collective shelters that have poor sanitation and water systems, raising the threat of dieases.

Oxfam teams are helping people in Türkiye and Syria, providing clean water, hygiene items like soap, food, and shelter for people displaced from their homes in freezing winter temperatures.

Women in Türkiye affected

Hundreds of thousands of families in Türkiye are residing in informal settlements to stay close to homes that have been destroyed. They have little to no access to water and basic sanitation, shelter, and food.

"While the world’s attention may be shifting elsewhere, the conditions in Türkiye continue to be dire, and hundreds of thousands of families still need help,” says Meryem Aslam, Oxfam KEDV’s spokesperson in Türkiye. “Women and children are affected disproportionately, with many fearing for their safety. We spoke with one woman who delivered a baby in a tent and had not received any medical support 10 days after giving birth.”

In an area with a population of 15.2 million, almost 2 million people have evacuated from earthquake-affected areas with government support or through their own means. This is straining the local economy and the availability of safe housing across the country. Those who remain have no recourse but to stay outside, fearing returning indoors due to the aftershocks that continue to damage homes and infrastructure.

The areas affected by the earthquakes in Türkiye are also home to a large Syrian refugee population, who have already endured displacement over 12 years of conflict in their home country.

Oxfam KEDV in Türkiye is coordinating with a network of grassroots women’s organizations and cooperatives, volunteers, civil society actors, and public authorities to rapidly provide food, clean water, showers, hygiene products, and blankets. Oxfam KEDV is also facilitating the establishment of additional shelters, setting up toilets and showers, and initiating the repair of water reservoirs to ensure access to clean water. In addition, Oxfam KEDV is working with women’s cooperatives that are operating community kitchens in the region and providing food to people every day.

In the coming months, Oxfam KEDV intends to support 1.4 million people living in the areas most affected by the earthquake by providing access to food, restoring water systems, and supporting people’s livelihoods through training and financial support.

Assisting survivors in Syria

To gauge humanitarian needs of the people affected by earthquakes in Syria, Oxfam carried out a rapid assessment that included 14 communities with 40 collective shelters. Staff found inadequate water and sanitation systems, lack of hygiene items like soap, poor security for women and girls, and lack of blankets, warm clothes, and medication.

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A family displaced by the earthquake in Aleppo, Syria, seeks shelter. Hundreds of thousands of people in Aleppo are living in shelters or in makeshift tents near their homes, in freezing temperatures. Islam Mardini/Oxfam

In the weeks following the February earthquakes, Oxfam assisted more than 48,000 people in 39 communities, including by delivering more than 2 million liters of clean water and installing 40 water tanks to store it safely. We mobilized engineers to assess the damage to buildings to determine whether people could safely move back into their homes, and began 70 water system repairs at 22 sites.

Oxfam’s plans in Syria involve delivering assistance to 800,000 people in the next three years. The response will include providing cash to help people meet their most immediate needs, and continuing to repair water and sanitations systems to reduce the threat of diseases.

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